Move along please

When you tell people you have 10,000 car parking spaces, you have to expect traffic at your events. It’s one thing we deal with at every major event here at East of England Arena, and for the most part we’ve built solid working partnerships with regional and national stewarding and traffic management services, as well as contacts in the local authority and highways.

We have three gates we can use for visitors car access, and at a rate of about 1000 cars an hour we can admit 3-12,000 people an hour on-site, under ideal conditions. Of course, no  real traffic management plan survives more than about 10 minutes of contact with reality or the visiting public.

But that doesn’t matter, the important thing is to have the plan in place, and then at least you have a basis for your contingencies and plan changes. Investing in traffic management, if you regularly admit as many vehicles as we do, is essential. The cost of poor traffic management can escalate very quickly, causing problems not just for your venue, but the travelling public, local businesses and residents, and even the police. Every year you hear of one or other event being cancelled due to the lack of an adequate traffic management plan.

It’s important to retain a traffic management service that has the authority to close and divert traffic on the public road network, as well as one with personnel who can project a calm air of authority when drivers start to get overheated and impatient. Sometimes at the Arena we manage our own traffic, with the help of local stakeholders, including at the Rotarian Club annual fireworks display. This is a charity event, so any additional costs will cut into the monies raised, and as a strong supporter of local businesses and charities, we offer the traffic management with the booking of the outdoor venue space. Because we have such a large capacity for car access and parking, the Arena is the perfect place for a charity display. It would be impossible to do this, however, without the assistance of the Rotary Club volunteer marshalls and local residents living around the Arena, who help ensure their estates are closed to traffic with the support of qualified highway marshals and equipment. This prevents people from parking up for a free fireworks display by the perimeter fence, and helps to build a bigger charity pot at the end, whilst nearby residents don’t have to worry about unwanted nuisance traffic, inconsiderate parking and congestion.

We and our events work extensively with the local authorities and highways who are as a rule very helpful. They are not always right in their assumptions of how traffic at events will work and we have some troublesome junctions near us which are very busy with normal commuter traffic. Having an open and honest discussion about existing traffic issues helps when dropping an event on the top of local networks.

Much of the trick to successful traffic management, apart from keeping stakeholders, visitors and staff well informed about delays and changes, is to elongate arrival and departure times, putting less pressure on the gates, and keeping queueing vehicles to an absolute minimum. Make sure you have plenty of activities and attractions leading up to the main event so early arrivals will have lots to see and do. By promoting the benefits of an early arrival to potential visitors, you can spread arrivals out over two hours instead of everyone arriving at the same time. When the event finishes, have as many “stay a while” attractions as you can muster. For our fireworks night, we kept the bar and funfair open after the main display to stretch the stream of departures out, which served to shorten the queues of cars leaving the Arena and reduce the impact on local and arterial roads.

If things really start to grind to a standstill, it may be worth planning a “holding” route if you have the space on site, so you can continue to keep the cars moving. Nothing drives a motorist more crazy than standing still, so even a little forward movement will ensure they feel a sense of progress.